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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Bipolar disorder ‘misdiagnosed in a quarter of cases’

Embargoed until 04 June 2009

Bipolar disorder is misdiagnosed as depression in over a quarter of cases, a new study suggests. The research is presented today at the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ 2009 Annual Meeting in Liverpool.

Psychiatrists Dr Krishna Gangineni and Dr Richard Annear, who work in Wales, reviewed the medical notes of people referred to psychiatric services for assessment. They found that over 25% of the patients with bipolar disorder had initially had their condition misdiagnosed as unipolar depression.

Misdiagnosis often occurs because the symptoms of bipolar disorder overlap with depression and other psychiatric disorders. However, misdiagnosis can cause serious problems. For example, if people are wrongly prescribed antidepressants this can make their bipolar illness worse.

Dr Gangineni and Dr Annear said: “Our study found that bipolar disorder was misdiagnosed as unipolar disorder in more than 25% of the patients who first see a mental health professional.

“Recognition of bipolar disorder and its adequate treatment is paramount because bipolar disorder exacts such as a high personal and societal toll, with high rates of suicide and interpersonal problems and a substantial economic burden.”

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Annual Meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, BT Convention Centre, Liverpool, 2 -5 June 2009


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